Lowcountry: Sweet Southern Soul Food Glitzed Up
As a New Englander to the core, my reactions to Southern food range from fear to trepidation to exotic excitement to mild disgust. In my mind, it’s never been anything but fried food, barbecue, massive portions, and sickly sweet desserts. West Village newcomer Lowcountry changed all that for me, widening my horizons to Southern soul food done with sophistication (and no, for all you soul food fanatics, it hasn’t lost an oomph in the process).
Replacing Bar Blanc Bistro on West. 10th and Greenwich Avenue, Lowcountry’s shtick is warm, casual, and, well, Southern. The dimly lit space personifies the traditional Southern man all dressed up for the big city; there’s just enough glitz, just enough grunge, just enough soul. Stacks of tattered vinyl records line one wall with vintage mirrors nearby and the same long exposed brick wall from the restaurant’s predecessor. At the front is a hoppin’ bar, complete with bar height tables for groups, flat-screen TVs, and an extensive bourbon collection, backlit with soft golden light. The tables are made from recycled wood (ours seemed to be a repurposed window) and the walls are lined with deep burgundy leather banquettes. Young and stylish, the crowd comes after work and stays through the night, sipping house bourbon cocktails and noshing on trotter tots, fried green tomatoes, and deviled eggs.
The thing to do though is to reserve yourself a table and sit down to properly enjoy the truly wonderful food coming out of the kitchen. The menu is separated in snacks, salads, smalls, mains and desserts. The snacks are small and quick, perfect with a cold beer or a house ginger julep; the mac n’ cheese looked particularly decadent with a toasted golden brown top. For smalls, the obvious winner is the Fried Chicken Biscuit, served stacked and crispy atop a generous helping of creamy, rich and savory ham gravy. The cheddar biscuit is slightly dry, but packed with satisfying cheesy flavor and a delicious mess when sopped in the gravy; the chicken is not as melt in your mouth as you’d want, but the crust is spicy, peppery and playful; a generous helping of sweet and savory onion jam pulls the whole thing together. The pork belly is a marriage between down and dirty Southern flavors and Manhattan culinary sophistication. So tender that no knife is needed to cut it, the braising is done just perfectly. A bright and crunchy radish salad and a runny fried egg add interesting texture to an otherwise delightful dish.
For mains, try the BBQ baby back ribs, served with a savory Red Bliss potato salad and crunchy pickles. The ribs are showered in thick and spicy barbecue sauce so good that you want to drink it off the plate (yes, seriously). In the mood for something sweet? Try one of the delectable homestyle all-American desserts, ranging from bourbon-soaked bread pudding to brownie sundaes and apple cobbler. The pecan pie is my favorite, served as a personal-pie size with a dollop of salty caramel ice cream – nutty and delicious!
Lowcountry is quite the find – fun and fratty with an authentic Southern rock backbone yet still sophisticated enough food-wise to appeal to New York’s discerning downtown diners. There’s just enough grunge (the PBR + a shot of bourbon for $6 “recession special”) to transport you off of picturesque W.10th to where NASCAR is the preferred sport, yet it’s not so grimy that you couldn’t take co-workers, dates, and native New Yorkers here for a grand ole time.
Perfect For: UVA and Duke alums, after-work drinks with your younger colleagues, late-night bar snacks, bustin’ a gut